ginigisa ng kabayan sa sariling mantika (when your countryman fries you in your own juices or oil)


Cannibalsstock_Cannibals_34640741[back home we have a saying: ginigisa sa sariling mantika; literally, being fried in your own juices or oils, when your own resources are used to take advantage of you. Doubly worse when a supposed friend or ally, your own countryman or compatriot, does the dirty deed. Thanks for reading, stay safe everyone!]

NAIVELY PERHAPS, I’VE ALWAYS been faithful to the notion of the good nature of the Filipino overseas. Sociable, team-oriented, friendly, ready to help, all embodied in our beloved term bayanihan

…and above all honest and decent. Or at least, fair.

Even when I hear about how kabayan (countrymen) take advantage of fellow kabayan in our major population centers in New Zealand, I usually dismiss this as a unique, embarrassing one-off or outlier behavior of misguided Pinoys.

That was till recently when a new flatmate of ours recounted how, regularly and as part of everyday life, Filipinos and even those he trusted took advantage of him, overcharged him and never looked out for his welfare.

Dodong* was a late and unexpected addition to our household. The previous occupant, an architecture student going to Weltec suddenly changed her mind and decided to leave last week to study medicine back home in Colombia. So Mahal and I didn’t expect a new room aspirant, much less a Filipino, to ask around for it (we put up an ad just in case, but got a reply within 24 hours) so soon. Seemed that he answered an advertiser (also Filipino) who declined because they needed a female flattie.

He asked our rate (market rate), declared he would take the room sight unseen, and would move in the same day. Wow, my maybahay (wife) told herself mentally, no one does that, told Dodong there was a bond and advance, which the kabayan accepted without batting an eyelash. He moved in with his tools and bed linen later that day.

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First chance I got, I asked Dodong, who I found out had been working on short-term projects as a carpenter the last five years in Dunedin, Christchurch and now Wellington. I believe in the wisdom of settling board and lodging as soon as possible, but why didn’t he shop around?

This was what he told me: with another carpenter he paid $160 a week each to share a room, definitely above market rates (nearly double) but because the agent herself procured the room, he had little choice but to comply.

Worse, barely a month after he moved in, the agent decided that there was enough room for two more Pinoys and the two-to-a-room became four-to-a-room, without even notice or a sori ha? from the agent. And the best (worst) part? The $160 rent obligation didn’t change, he had to continue paying the same.

The most incredible part of this OFW horror story wasn’t any of the details above but the fact that Dodong wouldn’t have left if not for two things:  first, that being on night shift, Dodong had to wait until one of the two new occupants woke up and gave him a decent space to snuggle in (!), and second, even on the days he slept nights, at least one of his three roomies had a severe snoring problem, and that, to him was the final straw. Wow.

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I wish I could tell you that this was an outrage to Dodong, but to him it was no worse than his work experience in Christchurch: there were 12 of them in the house, and four to a room was quite common during his Christchurch gig. Everything was in-your-face, no privacy at all, and although there was never a lonely moment, he didn’t miss it.

Lastly, something odd struck me with Dodong’s length of stay in New Zealand. Five years! No plans to make it permanent? As in permanent residence? After all, he was contributing to the engine of growth of Aotearoa, had a squeaky clean record, paid his taxes, and of course, always went to work as a skilled worker.

Dili man, Dodong told me. He never considered any status other than guest worker / work visa, as no one ever told him he might be eligible, and that his day consisted only of getting to work , doing the work, and getting home to work. He never thought he might be welcome in New Zealand.

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The common denominator in all these, kabayan? You don’t need to be a genius to guess it, and I’m guessing you have: He has, and has always had, a Filipino agent, and moreover a Filipino organizing his stay whenever he moves from project to project. The faces and places may change, but the system remains the same.

Squeeze the last drop out of your kabayan, and if he or she never complains, so much the better.

God bless you Dodong, you suffer in silence, but the laws of karma and the universe will never change.

Thank you for reading, mabuhay!

*not his real name.

oras nang tumigil ng pagyoyosi kabayan


THERE’S NOTHING NEW  that I can say now that you haven’t heard before. Because you’ve heard it so often I won’t even repeat it, just my personal experience and how it relates to others in my situation kabayan:

MGA NASAYANG NA PANAHON, HINAYANG SA KAYAMANANG DI MAEENJOY. Most OFWs and migrants finally wise up and quit smoking later in life, during in middle age. When you’re young and beautiful, you think you’re bulletproof and live forever, which of course isn’t true.

Now when you’re a smoker and at the same time an OFW or migrant two things are going to happen in your middle age (50 – 65 years old ish) whether or not you quit : first, you’ll start to enjoy the things you worked hard for, savings, mortgage and retirement. Second, partly because of the natural processes of aging and partly because of the years and years of exposure to tobacco suffered by your lungs, your body begins to break down, both with weakened lung function, weakened heart, and as a result, a vastly diminished lifestyle.

May these two factors (enjoyment of your life’s work and the inevitability of suffering from smoking) coexist? Maybe, for a short while. But logic, the laws of health and common sense will take over before long.

Sayang naman. Maganda ang tanawin. Nakaiwas ka sa init ng Inang Bayan. And tragically, now that you have the time and resources to enjoy life, you can’t, because you have to devote all your money to medicines and doctor’s bills.

THE UNSEEN EFFECT TO THE FAMILY. If something happens to you and you die, you leave a family looking forward to making up for your half-a-lifetime of absence (if you’re an OFW) and now unprepared for a life without you. You cultivate resentment and bitterness because you may have provided and prepared fo a financially secure life, but you neglected your own health in the process, leading to disastrous and tragic results.

HABANG BUHAY, MAY PAG-ASA. But all is not lost. There is hope. You just need to quit smoking NOW, and reap the benefits, whether you’re an aspiring OFW, or already overseas, or already a migrant. 24 hours after your stop smoking, your heart rate and blood pressure begin to normalize. A few days after you stop, your dental health improves. (please check above for the full summary) Every step of the way, good things happen to the quitter, as long as he has the intention and will to stop. By the way, this is true whether or not you are an OFW or migrant or anything.

Long ago, I started smoking and I did for 24 years. I regret ever starting, but I can’t undo that. I quit 12 years ago, and that, I don’t regret. I hope you can join me kabayan (or friends of kabayan).

Huwag mong sayangin ang mga pinaghirapan mo kabayan. Itigil na ang pagyoyosi, today and right now.

Thanks for reading!

Love (for kabayan) in the time of coronavirus


call center agents

NO MATTER how many times I show off my Pinoy accent to the call center person (clipped vowels, unexaggerated consonants and unaspirated p’s and t’s), they won’t volunteer to ask, or even assume, that I’m a Filipino. This call was no exception.

CALL CENTER PERSON (Itago natin sa pangalang “Jennifer”) : Ah, before I can rebook your ticket Mr Noel, you have to accept the price addition and change fee and also the change name and I also have to confirm your personal details and flight details to make sure the new flight time is available.

ME : Yes, I’m aware of that Jennifer. I also want to make sure I can transfer the ticket to my wife’s name with the correct spelling and details without too much hassle, and I also hope it’s not too expensive.

JENNIFER : I’m sure I can help you with that Mr Noel, may I have the full name of your wife as appears on her passport please?

I give her Mahal’s details and surely, coupled with my own Pinoy sounding name, assume she will start talking in Tagalog, to make things easier for both of us.

JENNIFER : Thank you very much Mr Noel, now let me repeat your requested rebooking details together with the details of your transferee, which is of course your wife. Is that OK?

Hmmm. Kahit na di naman sya hirap sa English nya, parang mas madadalian kaming dalawa kung pareho na lang kaming managalog.

ME : You know Jen, I have a funny feeling you’re from the Philippines and you’re probably aware I’m also from the Philippines too. It might be better for us to talk in Tagalog na lang.

JENNIFER : That’s OK sir, you can speak with me in your preferred language as long as I can understand you. However since I’ve already started speaking to you in English, if you don’t mind I’ll continue, but I’m glad to know we can both speak and understand Tagalog. Now, here are the details . . . 

Maybe it’s just my imagination, but I can feel the relief and warmth in her voice now. I want to ask her why she doesn’t just switch to our native language but thought better of it, thinking both of the rules in her workplace against speaking in Tagalog and the fact that most likely, our call was being recorded. Instead I just spoke to her one-sided in Tagalog.

ME : Curious lang ako Jen, naapektuhan ba ang calls or business nyo sa coronavirus? Nabawasan ba ang travel and bookings mula nung pumutok mga cases ng virus sa China?

JENNIFER : Not that I can tell sir, as far as we can see, business is business as usual, we handle the same volume of calls although I can see quite a few cancellations in particular destinations.

I can’t ask which, as I know she will decline to answer. I decide to not pursue that line of questioning.

ME : Anong gagawin nyo kung magsara mga principal nyo at mga business na pinaglilingkuran nyo? ( I know that as call centers, they are “outsourced” by the actual businesses)

JENNIFER : Honestly sir, nothing changes. We just do lateral training and move fluidly between one industry to another. We’ve been doing this for years and my team and I have worked for dozens of accounts in different industries. The only thing we can’t do is move from one account to its competitor. As long as there’s work, we just keep working.

Impressed lalo ako di lang sa English nya kundi sa bilis nyang sumagot. She’s not only smart, she’s quick on her feet in responding to different questions. Parang beauty pageant contestant.

ME : Great to know Jen, pero paano naman sa Pilipinas? May nagbago na bang malaki sa mga nakikita mo?

JENNIFER : As far as I know sir nakikita ko sa mga airport may mga check sila at mas strict sila sa mga overseas travellers, nakamask na rin mga checkers sa mga mall at crowded areas. But other than that I don’t see much changes anywhere else. Won’t you be seeing these things for yourself Mr Noel?

Before answering I make a mental note to NOT notice that Jen made a “slip of the tongue” and actually spoke in Taglish for a few sentences. Just hope it doesn’t get her in trouble.

ME : I actually went home three times the last year Jen, for family reasons. For that reason alone I’ll have a hard time returning to the Philippines, payat na’ng budget. But even if I had the money, because there’s so much uncertainty surrounding public health, I’ll think ten times before going home this year. And I’m guessing I’m not the only one.

JENNIFER : (quickly recovering from her lapse in Taglish) That’s too bad sir. Your family will miss you here. Meanwhile your kabayan will keep the struggle alive sir, don’t you worry.

She didn’t know it but that short reply of hers brought a lump to my throat, I suddenly became emotional. I thought of her daily struggles going to work, keeping body and soul together, working overtime just to make ends meet, and helping her entire family while being a productive member of 21st century Philippines. Love for country, love for kabayan.

ME : God bless you Jen, and God bless your family. Sige, maraming salamat sa tulong mo. Kung dadalaw ka rito sa New Zealand, maraming magbibigay sa yo ng mainit na pagsalubong. You know my details, heh heh heh!

JENNIFER : Maraming salamat sir.

Was that thank you a lapse or intentional? Mabuhay ka Jen!

 

Pinoy message in a (Kiwi) bottle 1


FRA110116bottle4.jpg

NOBODY WRITES LETTERS anymore, least of all Pinoys. Instant messaging, social media, Skype and even SMS for the older guys have all but sliced the world in half, no matter where we move ourselves to overseas. We are spoiled by the technology of fiber optic superfast and lightspeed communications, demand world-class service and often get it, when we compose, deliver and exchange messages with our loved ones.

It’s a sign of the times when NZ Post, the equivalent of the PhilPost or Philippine Post Office here is in danger of losing so much money that it will cease to exist and surrender all its functions to the private sector.

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It was therefore a surprise when I saw an enveloped letter given to me by a friend of mine who picked it up in, of all places, a post office. The address was incomplete except for the word “PHILIPPINES” at the bottom, the detailed address probably meant to be filled out later.

Poor guy, nageffort na nga magsulat ng liham, di pa nakarating sa pinaroroonan. When I opened the contents to help see identify the sender, it was no help. It was in a dialect I was unfamiliar with. To those who don’t know, the Philippines is chock-full of sub-languages spoken by even more people than the Tagalogs in Manila. Bisaya, Ilokano, Hiligaynon, Kapampangan, Pangasinense and Chabacano are only a handful out of the dozens of brogues spoken all over our archipelago.

As a tribute to the effort of our kabayan I am reproducing the letter here, hope he doesn’t mind. If you Precious Reader can help translate, please do, send it back to us in the comments (thanks in advance), while we also figure out how to best reach the original intended recipients (it’s not a long letter):

different races

Mama og Papa kumusta namo diha? Buotan mga tawo dinhi sa NZ, ganahan kaayo sila og pinoy, mo respeto sad sa mga asian, tungod kay kita kahibaw mo respeto sa usag usa dali ra kaayo ma hire, bisan gamay rame sa amo company.

Taking a wild guess, given my total lack of knowledge of dialects outside Tagalog, Pangalatok (my wife’s tongue) and Bikolano (my mother’s childhood language), I’m going to say this paragraph is a positive one, and it’s obviously about employers hiring more of us, probably because of Pinoys’ sociable traits (but I could be wrong).

multiraces

Tungod kay kamao ta mo halobilo makig timbayayung, ang mga tsino kay deli makigkuyog sa deli nila kalahi, mga bumbay sad kamao sila mag paraya pero suheto sa tanan, puti sad buotan, unya taas og pasensya, mo tudlo sila sa angay buhaton, kusog lng mo inum nya usahay tapolon mo trabaho, kay taga dinhi man,

Here is a candid depiction of various races and nationalities I think, with the Chinese not too friendly with those not of their kind, is that right? Indians I’m not sure what the letter-writer thinks of them but it can’t be that good 🙂 I’m guessing “puti” refers to European Kiwis who whether good or bad, are so because they’re locals.

mga langyaw ang ng maneho sa mga farm, kay ang mga puti deli ganahan  dinhi na lng kutob, e.kumusta na lng ko sa tanan natong kaparentehan og ka igagawan nato diha, pasensya gyud wala koy pamasko sa inyo og sa mga barkada ko.

The last paragraph is an obvious commentary on the dairy industry: because locals don’t like working on farms, the vacuum is taken up by Pinoys, and this I know because a special visa pathway has been set up for our own kabayan, just to work on farms. The letter writer is obviously a relatively young person, as he is still close to his group of friends (barkada) that he made during his youth.

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Well, I’ll be very surprised if I hit the mark on even 50% of my amateur translations. I’m shortlisting the dialect used to between Cebuano and Hiligaynon, and I think it’s Cebuano. To the parents of this mystery letter-writer, you should be proud of your son/daughter, who I think is hard-working and misses you very much. So sorry if I can’t translate efficiently.  Guys, please help translate on the comments below if you can.

Mabuhay, thanks for reading!

 

 

“utang na loob,” sa pananaw ng OFW (the Filipino’s debt of gratitude, in an OFW’s eyes)


rock-climbers-helping-each-other-1[Google Translate says it all : type in utang na loob in the space for Filipino and the English translation says “indebtedness” which very insufficiently describes what you want described. Just a few of our thoughts on the matter. thanks for reading, thanks and photo acknowledgment to carryonfriends.com]

NAPAKAHIRAP IPALIWANAG sa dayuhan ang kunsepto ng utang na loob. Sa simpleng formula ng dagdag at bawas, once nakapagbayad ka ng utang, tapos na yon. Di madaling intindihin ang tuloy-tuloy at walang-tigil na pagtanaw ng utang sa katrabaho, kaibigan o kamag-anak. Kung hindi ka Pinoy or may asawang Pinoy, di makukuha sa unang paliwanag (o kahit pangalawa) ang katagang utang na loob.

What we fail to explain to many non-Filipinos (and probably to ourselves) is that although the idea of utang na loob is abstract to others and particular to our culture, in my humble opinion utang na loob in itself is subdivided into different levels and degrees. A good situation in which to explain utang na loob is the OFW (overseas Filipino worker) setting, where at the outset, the OFW is almost always forced to ask help from others.

But before that, I need a working definition of utang na loob that hopefully you will agree with, that we can both use. From personal experience, what we hear, and popular culture, utang na loob for me is a debt that may or may not be financial, so massive that it may take a lifetime to pay, or a debt that can never be repaid, from the perspective of either the creditor or debtor, or sometimes both. Does that work? OK.

For a better understanding of utang na loob, the theory is that all debts under this category take a lifetime of payback, that you keep paying it back, only in different degrees. The person you borrow from may think you returned too much, or “sobra ang bawi,” and may likewise feel obligated to return some of it, therefore repeating the process of having to pay it back, and so forth and so on:

Minor utang na loob, or little things to help the OFW’s family while the OFW is away. When the OFW leaves, his wife is left with multiple kids and responsibilities. Undoubtedly she’ll need a little help babysitting and minding the household. You do this, because well you take care of your own kids anyway, what’s one more. Besides, your kumpare’s son gets along with your own. The two boys become as close as siblings, going to school together, playing after school, even having sleepovers. You look after the boy as if he was your own. Your kumpare never forgets this small kindness, and when you yourself need a little assistance when it’s your turn to go abroad, he looks after your son. Just returning the favor.

I don’t know if we can classify this as utang na loob, actually, because it’s not massive and it doesn’t take a lifetime to pay back. But it’s the unanticipated sneakiness of the transaction, for example I do this for you, you do this for me. It’s almost like an I scratch your back you scratch mine affair. Before you know it, there’s been a lifetime of doing and returning favors. But still the spirit of utang na luob is there.

Moderate utang na loob, or favors relatives would do for each other, that makes life a lot easier for the debtor. A good example for this is the newcomer or newbie OFW in a strange land. His friend or distant relative has been there ahead of the newbie, and therefore has had a chance to settle his affairs, found a place to stay etc. or even bring in all or part of his family to stay as long as he works in said strange land.

So the one ahead (let’s call him the kuya  or senior OFW) does the natural and decent thing: he takes the bunso or younger OFW in, gives him room and board, feeds him a couple of weeks, does everything for him while the latter prepares himself for living overseas. Even documentation, paperwork, getting a car, all the little (but big) things that make life so much easier, and more importantly, shelters the junior OFW from unscrupulous and the fraudsters, sadly some of them OFWs themselves, and saving him a whole lot of wasted cash, disappointment and hassle.

Because of this, junior OFW gets settle in easily, gets his family earlier than expected, and his life prospers ahead of schedule. What does he do? Years later, when senior OFW gets sick, needs to go home (he has not prepared for the uncertainties of illness and occupational hazards) and leaves everything behind, bunso or younger OFW takes in the family of the elder who have suddenly become homeless and vulnerable, filling in the gaps while all the resources are devoted to Kuya’s recovery. And when Kuya OFW’s retirement finally arrives, who else is there for the help and support while Kuya’s family gets back on its feet? Of course it’s Bunso OFW, now a manager, who hires Kuya’s eldest son to work abroad, repeating history, and paying forward the kindness he so gratefully received from Kuya years back.

Madalas tayong makakita ng pagganti ng utang na loob between our kabayan, but in reality it’s often seen between co-workers, townmates (magkababayan) and relatives. It’s a revival and extension of the Golden Rule, doing for others what you’d want them to do for you. Especially in times of need.

Major utang na loob, or massive favors that change the lives of the debtor for the better. I forgot to mention that junior or bunsong OFW even before being helped by Kuya OFW, already incurred a massive debt of gratitude from his godfather or Ninong. His godfather not only paid the recruitment fee that enlisted Junior for that precious job abroad, Ninong also lent him money for the airplane ticket, without which his first day on the job wouldn’t have been possible.

The utang (debt) was a “soft loan,” meaning pay when able, payable whenever and wherever Junior and his family was ready to pay. Loans like these are often without interest and can remain unpaid for many years if at all. No matter, Ninong never expected it to be repaid anyway.

But Bunsong OFW was and is a man of gratitude and long memory. He not only repaid the debt in full within three years (albeit without  interest), when Ninong unexpectedly died and left behind a widow, Bunso not only rushed home to take care of the funeral and post-funeral details, he also asked his Ninang (not really a godmother but out of respect a title given to his godfather’s wife) first to visit them abroad, and then ultimately to live with them. This, something Ninang’s own children couldn’t do for her.

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But Bunso, his wife or kids didn’t care. For him, it was merely a debt being repaid, although the principal was repaid many many years ago. He was merely doing what he thought was expected of him. Not only was his Ninang like family to him and considered a second mother, he and the rest of his family felt happy doing it. Unsurprisingly, his family was all the better for it, as Ninang, grateful for being needed and the company of a second family, gave all of her life and energy, until literally the end of her life.

All’s well that ends well, for such is the nature of utang na loob. For sure sometimes it’s abused, but on balance it is here to stay with us Filipinos.

What is your idea of utang na loob? Answers will be appreciated, kabayan or no.

Thanks for reading, happy Easter! Maligayang Pasko ng Pagkabuhay!

ang pagbabalik: why homecomings are important to Pinoy migrants


 

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Sa gitna ng dilim
Ako ay nakatanaw
Ng ilaw na kay panglaw
Halos ‘di ko makita
Tulungan mo ako
Ituro ang daan
Sapagkat ako’y sabik
Sa aking pinagmulan  – lyrics from an Asin song

[Maraming salamat, to sya, muchas gracias and thanks very much in advance for making our visit to the Inang Bayan so memorable and enjoyable. Sa uulitin po! ]

NANG PAGBALIK namin mula sa probinsya this year’s vacay, where I met and paid respects to my in-laws, I have been meeting friends, contemporaries, relatives and more friends.

No exaggeration, four Manila gatherings in five nights, I couldn’t say no because each event was organized for me, and people made the effort out of their busy schedules just to see me. So no way I could  miss each and any of those balikbayan get-togethers, in incidentally my first visit since late 2016 to early 2017.

I saw classmates, friends and peers I hadn’t met in years and years. Most of them had married, gone through tough times in both work and business, kids and relationships and survived. Most had worked their way from the bottom, and were now reaping the fruits of their labor. Kids in good schools and nearing the end of their mortgage, these guys were looking forward to comfort in middle age with an eye towards retirement.

What about me? Looking at these guys, I couldn’t help but feel like Rip Van Winkle, asleep around twenty years in a cave, only to wake up and find out time had passed him by. Of course I hadn’t been asleep, only working in a land far away and staying out of the loop from people I had spent most of my life with, previously.

Had it been worth it? I won’t know for now. I don’t even know if I’ll end up staying permanently in my second home overseas or come back home from my years away.

I only know that despite seeing the people and things I missed, I need to keep doing this, coming back as often as I can:

My parents aren’t getting any younger. Dad is 86, Mom is 79. I would like them to be around forever, they’ve always been there for me, and in the same way I’d like to be there for them. But the laws of God and nature limit us to fourscore and 10 (90), and anything above that is simply a bonus. Being overseas limits my time with them, so going home as often as I can allows me the most time with them that I can manage.

I need to see what I missed to inspire myself to work harder. For sure, I missed seeing my family grow up in the Philippines. I missed the chances and opportunities of developing a career back home. I missed bonding with friends and family in the place I grew up in.  All this for a chance to live a better life abroad. So far it’s been a good choice. But I will always ask myself what could have been. I can’t answer that question yet, but I know I’ll have an answer eventually if I go home every chance I can.

I need to keep in touch with the land I was born in. Nothing is sweeter to the displaced Filipino (voluntary or otherwise) than to go home to his village, his family and his country. Before the sense of nationalism, there is the strong affinity for the community to which one was born, and before that of course, there is the sense of identity with the family one is born into. This hierarchy is common to many cultures, and none more so than to our own Filipino culture.

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It may sound cheesy, but I’m energized, inspired and refreshed every time I go home. My sense of perspective and purpose gets a reboot every time I see my family members and renew my sense of belonging. Above all, I get to remind myself what’s important: where I came from, and where I will always belong.

Thanks for reading, mabuhay po tayong lahat!

forever Kiwi, forever Pinoy : mabuhay ka Angelo Tuyay!


Angelo Tuyay. apologies in advance to the Tuyay family for blogging about him in advance without consulting them. photo acknowledgment to the New Zealand Herald.

[Posthumously the Order of the Knights of Rizal Wellington Chapter has awarded kabayan Angelo Tuyay a certificate of commendation for his heroic and brave act, a small token of our immense appreciation. Two nations are grateful to you kabayan! ]

AFTER LONG days and graveyard shifts, my lower back feels sore and dodgy (sinusumpong). My joints aren’t that great, either, but it’s partly due to a little too much beer, no fault of my body and all due to my stubbornness. It takes longer to get ready in the morning, but ask anyone my age and that’s no surprise.

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I’m alive though, and to greet the day alive and well is more than anything I could ask for. Besides knowing my family is likewise alive and well, I wouldn’t trade it for anything.

For a certain kabayan though, some things are worth more than the things we take for granted above. For him, helping others in need, in trouble, is the reason for being in this world. There is no limit attached to this duty of helping others, not even to the extent of making the supreme sacrifice.

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Facts are scant, but to use a Filipino term, traydor (treacherous) rip currents hid beneath otherwise calm waters at Hot Water Beach near Auckland last week.

Kabayan Angelo Tuyay leapt head first, fully clothed into the water upon hearing the cries of two girls who were in obvious distress due to rip currents, also known as an”undertow.”

Angelo was able to keep the girls afloat until help arrived. Unfortunately, he was himself in trouble and unable to keep himself from taking water in.

Fifty-five minutes were used by four doctors present trying to revive our kabayan. At that point, he was declared dead.

In retrospect, we would like to define in those fateful last moments Angelo’s heroic acts:

instant and without hesitation – The moment he realized the two young girls were in urgent need of assistance, he used every last ounce of his energy, wasting not a single moment in reaching the helpless. Which was just as well, because any delay would’ve been fatal to the girls. He made the instant decision, without regard for his own safety.

selfless– Human nature is after all, a lifetime of self-preservation. But we become bigger than ourselves and our nature when, against common sense, we reach out to help someone. Angelo decided to go against human nature and put aside fears for his own welfare. That gift of himself that he gave to those two girls, the latter will treasure for the rest of their lives.

generous – We can spend our entire lives building up savings, wealth and prosperity in order to give gifts to our loved ones. But nothing, nothing can match the gift of offering up one’s own life in order to preserve those of others. It is a gift that is both priceless and precious. It has no value in money terms, and yet it is the gift that is worth more than any material thing that the wealthiest man on earth could give.

It is this gift that Angelo gave, that has honored life, and which has honored us all.

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In one act, Angelo has fused the supreme values of both Filipinos and Kiwis – that of helping others at the expense of self. Call it bayanihan. Call it Kiwi-ness.

That day, before God called him back to Paradise, Angelo Tuyay was forever Pinoy, forever, Kiwi, and eternally both.

God bless Angelo Tuyay, and God bless us all. Mabuhay!

 

 

 

napakasakit Kuya Eddie – why Pinoys accept physical abuse at work


[nothing as outrageous as the video above, but when abuse is tolerated and accepted at the workplace it opens a Pandora’s boxThanks to South China Morning Post for the vid!]

WE READ and then reread the article about a kabayan Filipino being maltreated and abused  by his employers in the South Island.

It got to the point where we were disoriented, dismayed and finally disgusted that such could happen in this day and age in modern-day New Zealand, but that was on the surface.

You know what? Deep down, I wasn’t really that surprised.

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When I was in Auckland little more than a decade ago, my flatmate told me (and he had no reason to lie) his Countdown (supermarket) supervisor flicked an open hand across the back of his head in annoyance, something that never happened to him in the Philippines.

Goodwife Mahal had barely been in Wellington for more than a month when we both witnessed a food court manager doing the same thing (between a kutos and sapok) across the back of the head of his female cashier while we were waiting for our burger and fries order. We didn’t realize the consequence of the situation (a male supervisor physically assaulting a female staffer in front of multiple witnesses) until long after we got home.

And I myself received a flick of two fingers to the back of my earlobe (called a pitik back home) by a senior mentor a few years back. Granted, the mentor is/was very old school (in his 60s) and was done partly in jest or good-natured annoyance, but I’m not justifying it. It’s always contextual, but anytime interaction between manager and staff becomes physical, you have to take a step back and say, wait a minute, let’s bring the level down a bit.

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What was reported in the article was certainly shocking, but it wasn’t new by any measure. Just two weeks back, another kabayan was forced to leave work after suffering neck and arm bruises just because he walked out of his work area, not that any situation justifies physical harm or abuse from the employer.

So we’re now more or less settled : physical abuse not only exists in the NZ workplace, it’s not rare, and empirical evidence shows it can happen in any industry or region. But an equally perplexing puzzle that comes to my mind is, why do Filipinos like you and me seem to tolerate it? There’s no proof of this, but the fact that it took quite a while for the subjects in the situations above before formally making a complaint, legal or otherwise, is quite astounding. But you and I kabayan know that this kind of reluctance is far more common than anyone will admit, and it is quite common.

These are the reasons I’ve come up with:

Old school respect shouldn’t mean tolerating abuse. There’s a very large variety of age groups among Filipino workers, from the teens, working students, twentysomethings all the way to the very senior, primarily because, well,  there are quite a few  Pinoys in New Zealand, but also because there is no age discrimination in New Zealand. But despite the various age groups, we’re very old-school, meaning traditional, when it comes to respecting and acknowledging authority in the workplace. (New Zealanders on the other hand are generally more collegial and collaborative.) This has its roots in our Filipino traditions for respect for our elders, respect for those in authority, and respect for the head of the family, instilled in us since time immemorial.

Because of the extreme trust we place in those who manage above us, it is prone to abuse, sometimes literally. What can sometimes begin in innocent jokes can lead to verbal abuse, and finally to physical abuse. We Filipinos are only too vulnerable to such, because we frequently avoid arguments and are rarely confrontational, to the point of keeping quiet even when we are clearly uncomfortable.

We accept abuse as part of reparation, because we think we deserve it and are paying for it. Deep down, when we do something wrong in the workplace, we think we deserve to be punished. Again, it recalls an era when we were very young, particularly the baby boomers (born late 1940s to mid 1960s) and Gen X-ers (1970s), when corporal punishment was administered to us without the bosses batting an eyelash.

We think that because we are given some sort of “punishment,” verbal, physical or otherwise, we sort of “pay” for our mistake, and life goes back to normal. This is of course unacceptable. Mistakes are part and parcel of work life, and no amount of effing up justifies a slap, whack or worse punch from your superior. It doesn’t matter that previous bosses or managers used to do it and it was accepted as part of the norm. It is unacceptable at any level and in any situation. Filipinos should realize that, the sooner the better.

Fear of reprisal or dismissal. This is more universal, but Filipinos value job security more than many other Asians, and definitely more than local New Zealanders. Why is this so? Well, the simplest reason is that a lot of us are first generation migrants, and acquiring our jobs took much more effort than our non-migrant colleagues. Aminin man natin o hindi, we prize our employment as much as our permanent residence,  our standing in our community, our relationship with our hosts. it is huge part of our pride, our honor.

Now whenever this job security is threatened in any way, we are ourselves threatened. Never mind that we can find jobs elsewhere, and never mind that we are protected by good NZ laws in our job security. We only leave our jobs on our own terms, and we do everything we can to stay in our jobs. If this involves sacrificing our self-worth,  enduring humiliation and accepting abuse, so be it.

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Again, this mindset can’t be allowed to continue affecting our kabayans’ hearts and minds. It’s our inherent right to stay in our jobs as long as we do our work properly and with integrity. No one can be allowed to bully us out of our jobs, and this includes supervisors, managers, and owners of the businesses we work for.

You can say it in so many words and ways, but in the end it’s as plain as the nose on our brown faces: physical abuse is unacceptable, on any level and in any situation. The sooner we Pinoys understand this, the better for all of us.

Thanks for reading, mabuhay!

can pinoys be bullies in the NZ work place?


thanks and photo acknowledgment to FFE.com!

TEKA, teka, teka. I can hear you ask, you sure you don’t have it backwards ? You gotta point there, because in my own work site, for quite some time, I thought was bullied a bit here and there before I realized everyone went through the same thing.

Not even thinking about it too much, Pinoys seem more like the victims than the bad guys in a bullying situation because of their physical and social attributes. Pinoys are less than average in height and weight, eager to please, happy to just get along with everybody, always put the team ahead of self, and have very little ego whatsoever.

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But the reality is, anyone who persistently uses power (position, authority, seniority etc) over a colleague that is offensive, abusive, intimidating, malicious or insulting, covertly or otherwise, may be guilty of workplace bullying.

Pinoys may not be physically imposing or intimidating, but can cause distress to workmates in other ways.  Who among us has not experienced constant sarcasm, being isolated or ignored, being undermined or overloaded in work, and being subject to constant (though subtle) ridicule that can wear you out eventually? It may not cause the obvious cuts and nicks, but the damage inside is as bad, and maybe longer lasting.

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These are typical, but actually authentic sounding scenarios. Any of them ring familiar to you kabayan?

Case 1.  Bhong, a supervisor, made romantic overtures to Denise, a new member of his work   team and was rejected. He responded by telling the rest of the team that the new girl was hard to work with, not a team player, and not worth the attention of everyone else. Coming from a weekend break, Denise quickly realized no one was talking to her, and helping her get adjusted to her new work environment. She ends up resigning before the end of her first year.

Case 2. Ricardo, a new worker, passes the final interview over a more popular candidate. The staff immediately makes this known to the successful applicant by making unreasonable work demands his very first week, forcing him to work overtime just to keep up with the workload, and requiring the new worker to produce work output not justified for someone barely a month into work. The worker survives the probationary period, but the physical and emotional stress takes its toll and resigns as well.

Case 3. Marian, a female worker produces better than average output and becomes the favorite of Dingdong, the manager. She then becomes the subject of baseless and malicious gossip from unidentified members of the mostly-female staff. Marian’s personal life suffers as a result and, with little support from management, leaves her employer shortly.

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In each of these cases no physical mistreatment, or threat of such, was used, but the behavior under present New Zealand law could be prosecuted in a court of law.

More importantly, this type of indirect or “passive-aggressive” behavior is typical across a wide range of workers, in all industries, not the least where migrants do well. Because Asians like us (di lang naman tayo) avoid direct confrontation, we resist or express our conflict in an indirect or lateral manner. Sadly, we would rather resolve our differences by obliquely attacking someone we perceive as undesirable.

Such an unlikely situation, when after coming so far to New Zealand, and working so hard to make a meaningful contribution here, we become the very bullies that we want to avoid. Getting along with everyone at work means exactly what it says, getting along with everyone, with good will to all and malice towards none. New Zealand and our employers have been good to us. Let’s pay it forward!

Mabuhay tayong lahat!

 

 

tinimbang ka ngunit kulang (so close and yet so far): the curious case of kabayan Juliet Garcia


kabayan Juliet Garcia doing the work she loves with Switzer resident Kathleen Bowater. thanks and acknowledgment to Northland Age!

(Note : To fellow Filipinos and Tagalog speakers, I agree in advance that the English translation of the initial title isn’t that accurate, yet for my purposes it’s quite apt. Bear with me please, or better yet give me a better title. Medyo mahaba po ang blog. Thank you for reading!)

WHAT IF? You spent your best 10 years (no, 11!!) working as a guest worker in New Zealand…

WHAT IF? You worked, not just in an industry where migrant workers were sorely needed (the medical and allied services industry), but in a region where no locals and New Zealanders would work, outside the comforts of the major urban centers…

WHAT IF? You were appreciated not only by your employer in that place of work but by those you cared for everyday, as if they were your loved ones and cherished members of your family, not just for the wages and remuneration (which isn’t that much by the way) but because you had grown to love them, out of love for your fellow man, and love for your profession…

WHAT IF? Despite the strict immigration and labor laws you persevered, patiently building up your skill level to the point where at least, you had a fighting chance to stay in New Zealand permanently, in New Zealand where, after all, you paid your dues, never mind the blood sweat and tears you could have paid anywhere else…

WHAT IF? Despite all these what ifs, brothers and sisters, ladies and gentlemen, friends, Romans and countrymen, the benefit that you prized most of all, the right to stay permanently in the country you served so well, was cruelly denied you?

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If it sounds too improbable, too unfair to be true, then truth might as well be stranger than fiction Precious Reader, because in a nutshell it is what happened to Pinay countryman (woman) Juliet Garcia:

The Radio NZ website tells the short, sad story best, so we’ll quote it directly (everything in bold font):

“Ms Garcia qualified in dementia care and diversional therapy in 2017 to gain enough points to apply for a residence visa as a skilled migrant.

However, she said changes to the immigration rules that took effect last August meant she no longer had the points needed to apply for residence when her work visa runs out in mid-2019.

Under the new system, which limits some migrant workers to three years in New Zealand, she was uncertain that even her work visa would be renewed.

“I used to have points [towards residence] for ten years for work experience here and having a sister in Auckland. But I’ve lost those points under the new rules, and I don’t know if I can keep facing the stress of not knowing every year if I can stay, and the expense of applying,” she said.

If you think kabayan Juliet is on her own trying to stay here, she’s not. Her employer practically loves her, as Radio NZ continues:

Switzer Trust (Juliet’s employer) has been required by Immigration NZ to advertise Mrs Garcia’s job every year, but has never found a New Zealander to replace her.

“We have advertised locally and nationally at considerable expense. We’ve had it on Facebook, on TradeMe we had about 360 hits and that came down to three applications,” Mrs Simkins said.

“Two pulled out and the last person standing from that very expensive advertising session was not qualified.”

Switzer Trust (Juliet’s employer) had appealed to the Immigration and Health Ministers to review Mrs Garcia’s case and let her stay but to no avail, she said.

Far North mayor John Carter said Mrs Garcia was the sort of immigrant the district needed and Immigration’s stance was inexplicable.

“She’s done a tremendous amount to get qualified; she’s done all the things that this nation has asked of her, that the Switzer Home has asked of her, that the community has asked of her and now when it comes to the last hurdle we’re getting this negativity.

“We need people like Juliet and her husband who [are] contributing to the economy and the community up here as well. They are good people,” Mr Carter said.

Northland District Health Board chair Sally Macauley also believed Mrs Garcia should stay.

“It is hard in the north to obtain such professionalism as I know Juliet has,” Mrs Macauley said.

“She is one of a class of caregivers that we find difficult to retain. She has been with us since 2007; she’s loved by everyone at the Switzer and works extremely hard.”

Both the DHB chair and Far North mayor have asked the Ministers of Health and Immigration to look into Mrs Garcia’s case for residence.

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So Juliet ticks all the boxes. No one likes her job, but she does. She’s in a job that’s always in demand because there aren’t enough New Zealanders to fill it. And on the surface she earns enough to be considered highly skilled in this country. No problem diba?

But wait. On the points-based system (effective August 2017) under which enough points earns you the right to be considered for permanent residence, which with all the attendant benefits is the ultimate prize for all migrant workers in New Zealand, the rules recently changed.

To make it worse, she upskilled and retrained in order to raise her skill level, only to be tripped up by the same set of new rules that declared her 10 years work experience useless (for purposes of residence application) as it was no longer “skilled enough.”

According to Juliet herself (above) the NZ work experience and having relatives in New Zealand used to count for points towards literally reaching the promised land. But these were recently taken away.

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Kabayan immigration lawyer Maricel Weischede who has taken up the fight on Juliet’s behalf, is baffled by the lack of practicality and compassion shown by the traditionally labor- and migrant-friendly Labour Government.

Again lets give a kabayan the floor, courtesy of her FB page:

we only asked (in Juliet’s residency application) for one requirement to be waived. The rest of the requirements could still be tested under the current immigration policy.

(Because of a technicality) It is disappointing that people like Juliet who spent more than years of her life working here can no longer claim for the number of years of work experience under the skilled migrant category because of new rules.

Abogado de campanilla Maricel has given her free time, expertise, and goodwill, even the audacity to go all the way to the current Labor Government (represented by its Ministers for Immigration and Health) to knock some sense and compassion into the powers-that-be.

But even then, it might not be enough.

It’s truly heartbreaking to know that many other migrants in our major NZ urban centers work jobs that utterly fail the logic of skills shortage, essential skills and contribution visas, and yet kabayan like Juliet are desperately needed, work wholeheartedly  in the heartland of Aotearoa, never think of working anywhere else, and yet fall short of the requirements of a full welcome.

Tinimbang ka, ngunit kulang.

Let’s not give up the fight for Juliet Garcia.

For we are Juliet Garcia, and Juliet Garcia is us.

Thanks for reading, mabuhay po tayong lahat!